Opinion: Is Kavanaugh supreme court material?

Are there really no better options?


Courtesy of Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27. Kavanaugh is currently under FBI investigation for allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

By Dylan Harris, Copy Editor

Dylan Harris is the Copy Editor for The Easterner. The opinion expressed in this article is his own, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Easterner’s editorial board.

The #MeToo movement has taken center stage in the news yet again, this time reaching the highest court in the land. The Brett Kavanaugh hearing garnered the attention of millions of Americans on Thursday, Sept. 27 and seemingly left its viewers more divided in opinion than they already were.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University, was one of three women to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual wrongdoing. Ford’s allegations stem from an event she says occurred in 1982. Ford said that during a small gathering at someone’s house, Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.

Ford alleges that she was pushed from behind into a bedroom by either Kavanaugh or his friend, Mark Judge, who she claims were both visibly drunk at the time. Then, she said, Kavanaugh got on top of her and began groping her and grinding against her as he attempted to take her clothes off. When she tried to yell for help, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth. She was able to escape from the room when Judge jumped on the bed and they “toppled over,” allowing her the chance to run across the hall and lock herself in a bathroom.

Fast forward to 2018. Ford sent a letter including the allegations to Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Feinstein, who told Ford she would have anonymity, relayed the allegations to the FBI. The FBI redacted Ford’s name and sent the letter to the White House. Ford didn’t want to come forward publicly until she realized her identity was already in jeopardy of being revealed due to a potential leak. Ford explained her choice to come forward.

“Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation,” Ford told the Washington Post.

The #MeToo movement is about more than just legal justice and punishment. It is about moral justice and closure for victims. It is about holding the assailants accountable for their actions, even when the statute of limitations prevents the courts from doing so. #MeToo is about bringing hope and inspiration to victims of sexual assault and harassment.

So why, in the era of the #MeToo movement when accounts of sexual abuse are being taken more seriously than ever, is this country so divided over who to believe?

Dr. Ford was very deliberate in her words, and she came across as being very credible. So much so, in fact, that even President Trump acknowledged her credibility.

“I thought her testimony was very compelling, and she looks like a very fine woman to me,”  Trump told a reporter Thursday.

Ford came off as very sincere and honest in her recounts of the alleged events that took place decades ago. Aside from taking a polygraph test that showed she was being truthful in her explanations of the events, Ford seemed genuine, answering questions in respectful manners and showing emotion without losing her composure. At one point, she was asked about her strongest memory of the alleged attack.

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the laugh, the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense,”  Ford said.

Her answer seemed candid and struck the hearts of many. She was able to paint a powerful picture of the alleged assault in a way that only someone who was in the room could do. Ford, a successful woman in the field of academia, uprooted her entire life and thrust herself into the harsh spotlight of the public eye for the sake of her country, for the sake of justice and accountability and for the sake of other survivors of sexual misconduct.

Supporters of Kavanaugh had to be a little worried following Ford’s testimony. But then Kavanaugh delivered his testimony in what was largely misconstrued on the right and more specifically by Trump as being  “powerful, honest, and riveting.”

I disagree. What I saw on Thursday was a nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court who struggles to handle his emotions, displays disrespect toward United States senators, lies about his apparent drinking problems and is unwilling to invite a full investigation into Ford’s claims.

Kavanaugh was asked repeatedly whether he would be willing to ask for a full FBI investigation. He dodged this question every time. Why would an innocent man be so worried about an FBI investigation? If what he claims is true, wouldn’t a full investigation clear his name and restore his reputation? We may have answers to this soon enough though, as Senator Jeff Flake, one of the few Republicans to show any signs of true sympathy toward Ford, recommended an investigation from the FBI before a final vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination. Questions loom, however, regarding the scope of the investigation and whether a week is a long enough period of time to conduct interviews.

Kavanaugh and some of his high school cohorts seemed to have bragged, somewhat cryptically, in their yearbook about some of their sexual and drinking-related conquests. Kavanaugh and some of his friends referenced “Renate Alumnius” next to their photos. When questioned, Kavanaugh claimed Renate, a female student at their high school, was just a good friend to him and his group of friends who they all accepted as their own. If that sounds fishy to you, you’re not alone.

Kavanaugh also referenced “Devil’s Triangle,” which he explained as a drinking game with cups and quarters. You’ve probably never heard of that drinking game. What you might have heard though, is that a “Devil’s Triangle” is a sexual act involving two men and a woman.

Set aside the childish brags of his apparent sexual achievements. Set aside his demeaning reference about Renate, a female student. Set aside his drinking habits, past and present. Kavanaugh came across as evasive, angry and disrespectful on Thursday.

He snapped back at members of the judiciary committee and asked them the same questions they had asked him. He was visibly mad when answering certain questions. He displayed an inability to remain impartial across party lines, stating that the accusations against him were a “political hit” from Democrats. He even said the accusation was revenge for the Clintons. This doesn’t sound like a potential member of our highest court.

While I personally believe Dr. Ford’s testimony, I am unwilling to rule it as fact. There are still witnesses to be heard and this was far from a real trial. I am trying to consider both sides of the argument. It’s hard at times, but there are only three people who can truly say for certain (assuming two of them can remember) what happened that night in the summer of ’82. However, even if Kavanaugh is telling the truth, even if Dr. Ford is lying or mistaken, is Brett Kavanaugh truly the best option that our country has for a conservative justice on the Supreme Court?

Should a man who has been accused of sexual assault by a very credible woman be deciding and interpreting the laws that affect us all? Should a man with what seems to be a drinking problem have this much power? Can a man who can’t even control his own emotions in a court setting be trusted to make some of the most important legal decisions in our country? There must be a better option.

Unfortunately, even in the #MeToo era, rich, powerful men are often held to a different standard than everyone else.